The Secret in the Wall (Silver Rush Mysteries, 8)

Written by Ann Parker
Review by Marlie Wasserman

With an impressive command of the genre of historical fiction, Ann Parker tells the tale of Inez Stannert, who purchases an old house in San Francisco in 1882, only to find a corpse, a bag of gold coins, and a glass eye hidden in the wall. Stannert, an early version of a venture capitalist, is ostensibly the owner of a music shop. Readers soon learn of her additional expertise at sleuthing. Over the course of a week, she puzzles out the identity of the corpse, the background of the gold, the mystery surrounding the house, and she ultimately catches the killer.

Assisting her is a small cast of well-drawn characters, including her adventurous teenage ward, her rule-following business partner, and an attractive private detective.

Parker is adept at plotting, characterization, dialog, and historical setting. Her plot ties into Civil War events twenty years earlier, surprising readers who may not know that conflict reached as far west as San Francisco. From the spectacular opening scene to the riveting denouement, Parker paces her plot well, alternating action with the quieter work of an investigation. She also tells a feminist story in a non-dogmatic fashion. Inez is a businesswoman who enjoys supporting other businesswomen, and she seeks male companionship but is perfectly comfortable on her own.

The Secret in the Wall is Volume 8 in Parker’s successful Silver Rush Mystery series, first set in Leadville, Colorado, then in San Francisco. As expected, Volume 8 includes many ambiguous references to Inez Stannert’s complex earlier life, references that are likely to intrigue readers, sending them to volumes one through seven if they have not already had that pleasure.